© 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
The address to Brethren on the Banner Dedication. Presented by : The Most Worshipful GRAND MASTER: Michael H Roalfe, PGHCh, GCSM
Link To Address, MWGM Link To Address, MWGM Selection of Photographs Selection of Photographs
oda teoday we witness the Dedication of a Banner to the Province of Wessex within The Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales and Provinces Overseas. Until June 2008, such a short time ago, the Province of Wessex was purely a phrase within the Order to refer to an area consisting of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall. Since its formation, under the direction of R.W. Bro. Malcolm James Burns ; the Primus Provincial Grand Master; the Province has flourished. He has been greatly assisted from its formation by his close friend W.Bro. Brian George Wright the Provincial Grand Secretary and Deputy Grand Secretary. The successful growth has been sufficient for Grand Court to permit the Province to appoint other officers including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master and at Perranporth on the 28th. November 2011 the Provincial Grand Secretary was rewarded for his considerable efforts by receiving that preferment. He was, immediately further rewarded for his effort and import to Grand Court by a promotion to Past Grand Sword Bearer necessitating the prefix of Very Worshipful Brother. The Provincial Grand Master has received two promotions within our Reward Order of the Scarlet Mantle and is presently a Knight Commander of that Order. Due to its relative infancy all members of the Province can justifiably claim to have been active participants in its growth. Some have already been rewarded and others will, in due time, receive appropriate preferment but it is appropriate to mention, chronologically, four of our brethren who, whilst assisting the Provincial Grand Master
W.Bro.George E.R. Gardner, the Primus Provincial Prior and PDepGGaurd. is, by his present frailty both physically and mentally, prevented from being here today. W.Bro. Colin McGrath, and Bro`s Stan Wills and Dirk Van Eeden were called to the Grand Court above before their contributions could be recognised in a practical manner but it would be remiss not to refer to and remember their input and thus influence within these celebrations. The banner of the Province of Wessex is blazoned with azure with a heading stating that the Province meets within the jurisdiction of the Masonic Order of Athelstan. It depicts a shield bearing an inscription that translates as Athelstan King of Wessex. The background is identified with that attributed by medieval heralds to the Kings of Wessex and bears upon it a two legged dragon with erect wings and a spear-headed tail. This was blazoned as Azure with a cross patance between four martlets (a swift or fanciful bird without legs) . The Wyvem is shown on a star studded chequered carpet that symbolises safe masonic haven. The blue bands of truth connect that the north, south, east and west of the Province surrounded by the waters that brought the Anglo-Saxons to Wessex. Those waters that later, became natural defences and borders. Finally, at the bottom is the cross patonce from Athelstan heraldic shield. The patonce pattern of cross has the ends of its limbs trifurcated into leaf shapes. The suspension loops and scroll are identical to the colours of the Provincial badge and collar. But what of this Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West that we, as a Masonic body, are privileged to represent? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there is such a plethora of information as to necessitate thought as to what to omit rather than seeking material to include. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles advise that its origins are during the 6th. Century with the invasion of Cerdic and Cynric but there are historians who doubt the authenticity of this claim. It retained its kingdom status until the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under Æþelstan in 924.
Later, during the reign of Canute it became an earldom which was, of course, how the various early regions were considered and whilst, after the Norman Conquest, it was dissolved with other earldoms being shared among the followers and supporters of the Conqueror, the title of the Earl of Wessex is held by Edward a most appropriate name - the youngest son of our present Sovereign. The language of the region was the Old English or Anglo-Saxon. The original religion was mainly Pagan with Christianity having little influence although some of the Kings of Wessex were Christians with one making a pilgrimage to Rome. It is following the accession of Cynegil in 617 that the acceptance of Christianity began to quicken. In 640 Cynegil was baptised by Birius a West-Saxon bishop who held his seat at Dorchester-on-Thames. He was the first king so to do as the others had been baptised outwith the kingdom. There was no immediate conversion of his followers and his successor Cenwealh was a pagan at his accession in 642 although, when he converted and was baptised some years later, Wessex became firmly established and well known as a Christian kingdom. The Christian religion developed with astonishing rapidity to the extent that the penultimate ruler of Anglo-Saxon England was beatified as Edward the Confessor becoming a revered saint who would have considerable influence on later Norman and Plantagenet Rulers. Wessex during the seventh century consisted only of portions of present day Hampshire and Dorset. This was followed by a gradual advance westwards into Devon progressing as far as the River Tamar; a river that has always been a natural border and barrier. Somerset and parts of Berkshire were later acquisitions. During the following century Wessex remained independent of, although certainly overshadowed by, Mercia; a kingdom then at the height of its power subduing and gaining control over the smaller kingdoms. This dominance by Mercia within Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, curtailed the growth of Wessex to its north with the distinct probability of the Avon and Thames again forming natural and even mutually acceptable borders. The capture, by Mercia, of the see at Dorchester ensured that the second bishopric that had been recently established at Winchester resulted in that city’s development as the effective capital of Wessex It is during this period that the system of shires, a system of local administration, was established within Wessex prior to its expansion throughout England and eventually Britain and Ireland. Until the year 802 the sovereignty of Wessex had varied in its family lineage with the stronger or more dominant family claiming the throne but with the accession of Egbert the throne became firmly established in the hands of a single lineage. He has acquired little fame but his influence is much underestimated. He entered into two successful campaigns against the West Welsh of present day Cornwall. The first was in 813 and the second 822 when the western Britons of Devon were completely overrun and those beyond the River Tamar reduced to service as vassals. Later, in 825 he disturbed the existing political order with a decisive victory over Beornwulf of Mercia thereby taking control of Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Essex. The earldom of East Anglia, after soliciting his assistance, then broke away from Mercian control. Astonishingly, in 829 he conquered Mercia and drove Wiglaf into exile securing from Northumbria, acknowledgment of his overlordship thereby becoming known as the Bretwalda, or high king of Britain. However, this dominance was short-lived when Wiglaf returned from exile and restored Mercian independence in 830. But the expansion of Wessex across south-eastern England that had occurred under his leadership remained and was never lost. It was during the latter years of his reign that the raids of the Vikings began. In 851, a fleet, reported as 350 ships, appeared in the estuary of the Thames. Following their victory over Mercia the Vikings attempted to invade Wessex but were soundly by defeated Egbert's son and successor Æþelwulf. Whilst this victory postponed Danish conquests it did not stop the raids on Wessex. In 855 during a pilgrimage to Rome By Æþelwulf his eldest son seized the throne. Upon his return, and to avoid bloodshed, Æþelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom permitting his son to rule those newer portions in the east whilst he
continued to control the old heartland of the west. Each of Æþelwulf`s four surviving sons ruled successively. First, the rebel Æþelbald followed by his brother Ethelbert, who having inherited his father’s portion reunited the kingdom by inheriting the remainder when Æþelbald died. Æþelred followed and, finally, Alfred the Great. This surprisingly quick last succession was occasioned by the deaths of the first two in wars with the Danes without issue and Aethelred's sons being too young to assume kingship when he died. Much has been written of Alfred; this meritorious of kings. The fifth son of Æþelwulf was born at Wantage in 849 becoming king at 21 and reigning for eighteen years. He was known and accepted as a pious and God fearing man. An inclination inherited by his grandson Æþelstan. He became an astute politician, encouraging learning and education and warmly welcoming literate visitors from the continent. He instigated the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that provides us with such a fund of information although much, perhaps understandably, is complimentary to the king’s philosophies. An accomplishment affecting future battles was the creation of a navy comprising of ships similar to those of the Vikings thus permitting him to pursue and defeat his enemy on river and sea as well as land. Whilst Viking raids continued into Wessex they had, due to their successes in other parts of England, become less frequent and spasmodic but in 878, the Danes seized Chippenham in Wiltshire securing it as a base from which to devastate Wessex. The local population either surrendered or escaped with those of Hampshire fleeing to the Isle of Wight. The Wessex men were humiliated and reduced to becoming hit and run scavenging raiders within their own country scrounging or seizing provisions when they could. Alfred, with his bodyguard and a number of followers and having the earldorman of Somerset Æþelnoth as his ally, entered into the Somerset tidal marshes wherein, it is believed, he had hunted in his youth. It was during this period that Alfred allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after. Alfred was not only brave but had developed into a good and tactical general proving both resourceful and calculating. He studied and considered the Danish strategy and adopted similar tactics. He formed a fortified base within the Somerset marshes at Athelney and supported by men from Somerset, with others from Wiltshire and part of Hampshire, pursued guerrilla warfare against the Danes and in May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. His contemporary biographer Bishop Asser states, ' Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear, and they sought peace'.This totally unexpected victory was the commencement of Wessex's survival. Alfred facing the reality that he could not force the Danes from the remainder of England agreed peace with them at Wedmore. The Danish king Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather. A considerable number of Danes travelled to East Anglia and settled as farmers. 886 saw Alfred negotiating a treaty in which the frontier was determined along the Roman Watling Street with northern and eastern England under the jurisdiction of the Danes and becoming known as 'Danelaw' whilst Alfred assumed control of portions of West Mercia and Kent that had previously been beyond the boundaries of Wessex. But, whilst the initial foundation for the eminence of Æþelstan was laid by Alfred it was firmly enforced by his son and daughter Edward the Elder and Æþelflæd. The latter becoming a most formidable lady and warrior whose exploits could equal those of Boedica. For, whilst Alfred appears to have been content to extend Wessex to those borders he considered acceptable and natural this did not apply to his off-spring. If you seek advice from recognised historians as to the longest reigning house and therefore having greatest effect within England the response would, with little doubt, be the Plantagenet that began in 1216 with the accession of Henry II and ceased in 1485 with the death of Richard II, a total of 169 years. However, the House of Wessex originated with Cerdic in 519 and ceased at Hastings in 1066 i.e. 547 years. Whilst appreciating that the 29 years of the Danish monarchies of Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut, Harald Harefoot and Harthcnut reduces that to 518 it is a considerable period for one house to be in control of a kingdom’s destiny. Amonst the prolific writings of Matthew Paris on heraldic and armorial signs I cannot find reference to any for Æþelstan in particular so I had to seek elsewhere. This is puzzling as whilst the armorial signature of Wessex is as described by the Most Worshipful Grand Master I have found reference advising that two kings of which Æþelstan is one. His arms were, according to this reference, saltire (diagonal cross) gules (tincture of red) and azure (blue) orb (sphere usually surmounted by a Cross) blazoned as vert (green) cross potent (crutch cross) fitchy (pointed) argent (tincture of silver) and, in the dexter (left when facing) , the Virgin and Child in glory but this description does not agree in every respect, with that shown below that is purported to be taken from official sources. Whilst the dictionary definition of a Wyvern states a forked tail it is invariably shown with a spear or arrow headed tail although as you will see from the above, it is correct as such on Alfred’s shield. Papworth’s Armorial advises the arms blazoned as described within the explanation of the symbolism given by the Most Worshipful Grand Master but, as is normal amongst historians, there are contradictions with Boutell’s Heraldry describing a variant that whilst agreeing the azure (blue) background describes a cross florybetween four doves. W.& Em.Bro. Mervyn S Western DepEmGPrior,ProvGSW LINK TO TOP OF PAGE
© 2008 Provincial Grand Court of Wessex
The address to Brethren on the Banner Dedication. Presented by : The Most Worshipful GRAND MASTER: Michael H Roalfe, PGHCh, GCSM
Link To Address, MWGM Link To Address, MWGM Selection of Photographs Selection of Photographs
oday we witness the Dedication of a Banner to the Province of Wessex within The Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales and Provinces Overseas. Until June 2008, such a short time ago, the Province of Wessex was purely a phrase within the Order to refer to an area consisting of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon and Cornwall. Since its formation, under the direction of R.W. Bro. Malcolm James Burns ; the Primus Provincial Grand Master; the Province has flourished. He has been greatly assisted from its formation by his close friend W.Bro. Brian George Wright the Provincial Grand Secretary and Deputy Grand Secretary. The successful growth has been sufficient for Grand Court to permit the Province to appoint other officers including a Deputy Provincial Grand Master and at Perranporth on the 28th. November 2011 the Provincial Grand Secretary was rewarded for his considerable efforts by receiving that preferment. He was, immediately further rewarded for his effort and import to Grand Court by a promotion to Past Grand Sword Bearer necessitating the prefix of Very Worshipful Brother. The Provincial Grand Master has received two promotions within our Reward Order of the Scarlet Mantle and is presently a Knight Commander of that Order. Due to its relative infancy all members of the Province can justifiably claim to have been active participants in its growth. Some have already been rewarded and others will, in due time, receive appropriate preferment but it is appropriate to mention, chronologically, four of our brethren who, whilst assisting the Provincial G Grand Master.
W.Bro.George E.R. Gardner, the Primus Provincial Prior and PDepGGaurd. is, by his present frailty both physically and mentally, prevented from being here today. W.Bro. Colin McGrath, and Bro`s Stan Wills and Dirk Van Eeden were called to the Grand Court above before their contributions could be recognised in a practical manner but it would be remiss not to refer to and remember their input and thus influence within these celebrations. The banner of the Province of Wessex is blazoned with azure with a heading stating that the Province meets within the jurisdiction of the Masonic Order of Athelstan. It depicts a shield bearing an inscription that translates as Athelstan King of Wessex. The background is identified with that attributed by medieval heralds to the Kings of Wessex and bears upon it a two legged dragon with erect wings and a spear-headed tail. This was blazoned as Azure with a cross patance between four martlets (a swift or fanciful bird without legs) . The Wyvem is shown on a star studded chequered carpet that symbolises safe masonic haven. The blue bands of truth connect that the north, south, east and west of the Province surrounded by the waters that brought the Anglo- Saxons to Wessex. Those waters that later, became natural defences and borders. Finally, at the bottom is the cross patonce from Athelstan heraldic shield. The patonce pattern of cross has the ends of its limbs trifurcated into leaf shapes. The suspension loops and scroll are identical to the colours of the Provincial badge and collar. But what of this Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West that we, as a Masonic body, are privileged to represent? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there is such a plethora of information as to necessitate thought as to what to omit rather than seeking material to include. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles advise that its origins are during the 6th. Century with the invasion of Cerdic and Cynric but there are historians who doubt the authenticity of this claim. It retained its kingdom status until the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms under Æþelstan in 924.
Later, during the reign of Canute it became an earldom which was, of course, how the various early regions were considered and whilst, after the Norman Conquest, it was dissolved with other earldoms being shared among the followers and supporters of the Conqueror, the title of the Earl of Wessex is held by Edward – a most appropriate name - the youngest son of our present Sovereign. The language of the region was the Old English or Anglo-Saxon. The original religion was mainly Pagan with Christianity having little influence although some of the Kings of Wessex were Christians with one making a pilgrimage to Rome. It is following the accession of Cynegil in 617 that the acceptance of Christianity began to quicken. In 640 Cynegil was baptised by Birius a West-Saxon bishop who held his seat at Dorchester-on-Thames. He was the first king so to do as the others had been baptised outwith the kingdom. There was no immediate conversion of his followers and his successor Cenwealh was a pagan at his accession in 642 although, when he converted and was baptised some years later, Wessex became firmly established and well known as a Christian kingdom. The Christian religion developed with astonishing rapidity to the extent that the penultimate ruler of Anglo-Saxon England was beatified as Edward the Confessor becoming a revered saint who would have considerable influence on later Norman and Plantagenet Rulers. Wessex during the seventh century consisted only of portions of present day Hampshire and Dorset. This was followed by a gradual advance westwards into Devon progressing as far as the River Tamar; a river that has always been a natural border and barrier. Somerset and parts of Berkshire were later acquisitions. During the following century Wessex remained independent of, although certainly overshadowed by, Mercia; a kingdom then at the height of its power subduing and gaining control over the smaller kingdoms. This dominance by Mercia within Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, curtailed the growth of Wessex to its north with the distinct probability of the Avon and Thames again forming natural and even mutually acceptable borders. The capture, by Mercia, of the see at Dorchester ensured that the second bishopric that had been recently established at Winchester resulted in that city’s development as the effective capital of Wessex It is during this period that the system of shires, a system of local administration, was established within Wessex prior to its expansion throughout England and eventually Britain and Ireland. Until the year 802 the sovereignty of Wessex had varied in its family lineage with the stronger or more dominant family claiming the throne but with the accession of Egbert the throne became firmly established in the hands of a single lineage. He has acquired little fame but his influence is much underestimated. He entered into two successful campaigns against the West Welsh of present day Cornwall. The first was in 813 and the second 822 when the western Britons of Devon were completely overrun and those beyond the River Tamar reduced to service as vassals. Later, in 825 he disturbed the existing political order with a decisive victory over Beornwulf of Mercia thereby taking control of Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Essex. The earldom of East Anglia, after soliciting his assistance, then broke away from Mercian control. Astonishingly, in 829 he conquered Mercia and drove Wiglaf into exile securing from Northumbria, acknowledgment of his overlordship thereby becoming known as the Bretwalda, or high king of Britain. However, this dominance was short-lived when Wiglaf returned from exile and restored Mercian independence in 830. But the expansion of Wessex across south-eastern England that had occurred under his leadership remained and was never lost. It was during the latter years of his reign that the raids of the Vikings began. In 851, a fleet, reported as 350 ships, appeared in the estuary of the Thames. Following their victory over Mercia the Vikings attempted to invade Wessex but were soundly by defeated Egbert's son and successor Æþelwulf. Whilst this victory postponed Danish conquests it did not stop the raids on Wessex. In 855 during a pilgrimage to Rome By Æþelwulf his eldest son seized the throne. Upon his return, and to avoid bloodshed, Æþelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom permitting his son to rule those newer portions in the east whilst he continued to control the old heartland of the west. Each of Æþelwulf`s four surviving sons ruled successively. First, the rebel Æþelbald followed by his brother Ethelbert, who having inherited his father’s portion reunited the kingdom by inheriting the remainder when Æþelbald died. Æþelred followed and, finally, Alfred the Great. This surprisingly quick last succession was occasioned by the deaths of the first two in wars with the Danes without issue and Aethelred's sons being too young to assume kingship when he died. Much has been written of Alfred; this meritorious of kings. The fifth son of Æþelwulf was born at Wantage in 849 becoming king at 21 and reigning for eighteen years. He was known and accepted as a pious and God fearing man. An inclination inherited by his grandson Æþelstan. He became an astute politician, encouraging learning and education and warmly welcoming literate visitors from the continent. He instigated the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that provides us with such a fund of information although much, perhaps understandably, is complimentary to the king’s philosophies. An accomplishment affecting future battles was the creation of a navy comprising of ships similar to those of the Vikings thus permitting him to pursue and defeat his enemy on river and sea as well as land. Whilst Viking raids continued into Wessex they had, due to their successes in other parts of England, become less frequent and spasmodic but in 878, the Danes seized Chippenham in Wiltshire securing it as a base from which to devastate Wessex. The local population either surrendered or escaped with those of Hampshire fleeing to the Isle of Wight. The Wessex men were humiliated and reduced to becoming hit and run scavenging raiders within their own country scrounging or seizing provisions when they could. Alfred, with his bodyguard and a number of followers and having the earldorman of Somerset Æþelnoth as his ally, entered into the Somerset tidal marshes wherein, it is believed, he had hunted in his youth. It was during this period that Alfred allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after. Alfred was not only brave but had developed into a good and tactical general proving both resourceful and calculating. He studied and considered the Danish strategy and adopted similar tactics. He formed a fortified base within the Somerset marshes at Athelney and supported by men from Somerset, with others from Wiltshire and part of Hampshire, pursued guerrilla warfare against the Danes and in May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. His contemporary biographer Bishop Asser states, ' Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear, and they sought peace'.This totally unexpected victory was the commencement of Wessex's survival. Alfred facing the reality that he could not force the Danes from the remainder of England agreed peace with them at Wedmore. The Danish king Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather. A considerable number of Danes travelled to East Anglia and settled as farmers. 886 saw Alfred negotiating a treaty in which the frontier was determined along the Roman Watling Street with northern and eastern England under the jurisdiction of the Danes and becoming known as 'Danelaw' whilst Alfred assumed control of portions of West Mercia and Kent that had previously been beyond the boundaries of Wessex. But, whilst the initial foundation for the eminence of Æþelstan was laid by Alfred it was firmly enforced by his son and daughter Edward the Elder and Æþelflæd. The latter becoming a most formidable lady and warrior whose exploits could equal those of Boedica. For, whilst Alfred appears to have been content to extend Wessex to those borders he considered acceptable and natural this did not apply to his off-spring. If you seek advice from recognised historians as to the longest reigning house and therefore having greatest effect within England the response would, with little doubt, be the Plantagenet that began in 1216 with the accession of Henry II and ceased in 1485 with the death of Richard II, a total of 169 years. However, the House of Wessex originated with Cerdic in 519 and ceased at Hastings in 1066 i.e. 547 years. Whilst appreciating that the 29 years of the Danish monarchies of Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut, Harald Harefoot and Harthcnut reduces that to 518 it is a considerable period for one house to be in control of a kingdom’s destiny. Amonst the prolific writings of Matthew Paris on heraldic and armorial signs I cannot find reference to any for Æþelstan in particular so I had to seek elsewhere. This is puzzling as whilst the armorial signature of Wessex is as described by the Most Worshipful Grand Master I have found reference advising that two kings of which Æþelstan is one. His arms were, according to this reference, saltire (diagonal cross) gules (tincture of red) and azure (blue) orb (sphere usually surmounted by a Cross) blazoned as vert (green) cross potent (crutch cross) fitchy (pointed) argent (tincture of silver) and, in the dexter (left when facing) , the Virgin and Child in glory but this description does not agree in every respect, with that shown below that is purported to be taken from official sources. Whilst the dictionary definition of a Wyvern states a forked tail it is invariably shown with a spear or arrow headed tail although as you will see from the above, it is correct as such on Alfred’s shield. Papworth’s Armorial advises the arms blazoned as described within the explanation of the symbolism given by the Most Worshipful Grand Master but, as is normal amongst historians, there are contradictions with Boutell’s Heraldry describing a variant that whilst agreeing the azure (blue) background describes a cross florybetween four doves. W.& Em.Bro. Mervyn S Western DepEmGPrior,ProvGSW LINK TO TOP OF PAGE